A Passing: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee Dies

Washington, D.C. Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book To Kill a Mockingbird, died Friday at age 89 in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Harper_Lee_MedalHarper Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007.
Photo: Wikipedia.

A statement from Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney, said Lee had “passed away early this morning in her sleep” and that the death was unexpected.

Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed her death Friday but did not give any other details about how she died.

“The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness,”  Michael Morrison, head of HarperCollins U.S. general books group, said in the statement. “She lived her life the way she wanted to — in private — surrounded by books and the people who loved her.”

Suffered stroke

Lee was born in Monroeville and lived for many years in New York City. But after suffering a stroke in 2007, she moved back to her hometown, and she spent her final years in an assisted-living facility.

Lee was a very private person and rarely made public appearances. But in November 2007, she went to the White House to accept a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, who called her book “a gift to the entire world.”

She also regularly attended an annual luncheon at the University of Alabama to meet with the winners of a high school essay contest on the subject of her book.

‘Legacy will last’

Spencer Madrie, owner of Monroeville’s Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe, which is dedicated to the work of Lee and other Southern authors, said the town was in a somber mood as word of Lee’s death spread.

“You wish somebody like that could go on forever and be this lifelong legend,” Madrie said. “You don’t ever consider somebody like that passing, even though her legacy will last for generations after.”

A private funeral will be held in a few days, a statement from Lee’s family said.

To Kill a Mockingbird, her 1960 novel about racism and injustice in the American South, was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1962. It starred Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch, and he received a Best Actor award. Screenwriter Horton Foote won for his adaptation of the book.

Broadway production

Mockingbird will also make its Broadway debut in the 2017-18 season, producer Scott Rudin recently told Reuters.

While the book has been produced for the stage in various U.S. cities and in London, this production will be the first time it will be seen on Broadway.

Last year, Lee’s unexpected new novel Go Set A Watchman became the fastest-selling book in the history of publisher HarperCollins. The company, which released the book July 14, reported that more than 1.1 million copies were sold in North America in its first week.

Watchman, written in the 1950s, was a first draft of Mockingbird and included many of the same characters.

HarperCollins said that as of 2015, To Kill a Mockingbird had sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most widely read books of the 20th century.

In a 1991 Library of Congress survey that looked at the books that have affected people’s lives, To Kill a Mockingbird was ranked second only to the Bible.

Tags: , ,

VOA News
Voice of America (VOA) is the official external broadcast institution of the U.S. government. VOA produces about 1,500 hours of news and feature programming each week for an estimated global audience of 123 million people, to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas.

Comments are closed.